With an outstanding collection of early American periodicals, the Society offers researchers many opportunities for studying the thought, culture, and life of North America through contemporary eyes. As with many of the Society's collections, Isaiah Thomas's personal library formed the basis of the Society's holdings of periodicals, now numbering around 6,000 titles in 55,000 volumes. A scholar can find periodicals published in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, or in Turkey by American missionaries. Although the holdings are generally limited to titles published before 1876, the cutoff date is extended, as it is in the newspaper collection for those parts of the United States in which printing commenced at a later period. The Society continues to acquire periodicals published in this period through purchase and gifts. It also subscribes to about 680 current periodicals issued by state, county, and local historical associations, as well as by institutions and publishers on American history, culture, and the arts.
Nearly all the eighteenth-century American and Canadian periodicals are represented, as well as a very large percentage of those titles issued before 1820; also available are extensive files of ephemeral and important journals from 1821 to 1876. Unusual and short-lived magazines can be found in the Society's collection along with better-known titles with long runs: one of the first American periodicals, Benjamin Franklin's 1741 "General Magazine;" the first Massachusetts periodical, "The Boston Weekly Magazine" of 1743; or the first American children's periodical, "The Children's Magazine" of 1789. Among the ethnic publications that are found in the Society's collection are the Sioux missionary publication, "Iapi Oaye," of the 1870s; "L'Album Litteraire," issued in New Orleans in 1843 by young French-speaking black men; and the Welsh "Y Cyfaill" published in Utica, New York, dating from 1843.
The collection covers a multitude of subjects: anthropology, antislavery, archaeology, education, fashion, literature, medicine, music, photography, printing, prison reform, religion, science, sport, and temperance. The best run of "The Home Journal," the predecessor to the present day "Town and Country," is on the Society's shelves, as well as issues of "The New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal" (1845-76), the feminist Revolution (1868- 72), and the notorious "Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly" (1870-76). The holdings contain the first English-language periodical in Canada, "The Nova Scotia Magazine" (1791-92) and British magazines such as "Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine" (1817-1904). A special group of religious periodicals are those published by the Adventists, considered one of the better collections outside Adventist institutions.
There is at present no card catalogue for periodicals, although titles shelved with the material on learned societies, local history, and institutions have cards in the main catalogue.
Another means of locating periodicals in the Society's colection is through in-house checklists such as the `Checklist of American Temperance Periodicals' and the `Checklist of American Children's Periodicals.' Some published subject bibliographies are also annotated with AAS holdings. Among these are James Danky's "Women's Periodicals and Newspapers from the Eighteenth Century to 1981" (Boston, 1982) and his "Native American Periodicals and Newspapers, 1828-1952" (Westport, Conn., 1984). All important subject bibliographies are in the Society's reference collection, including Arndt and Olson's "The German Language Press in the Americas" (Munich, 1980), and Eugene Willging and Herta Hatzfeld's "Catholic Serials of the Nineteenth Century in the United States" (Georgetown, D.C. 1968).
The Society acquires all periodical indexes relevant to its collection. One of the major indexes is the "Early American Periodical Index, 1743-1850," compiled by the WPA. It is made up of several indexes for authors, subjects, titles, poetry, and book reviews in articles found in 370 titles. Another is the ongoing "Index to American Periodicals of the 1700s and 1800s" (Indianapolis, 1986-). The Society's microfilm collection of periodicals is small but does include the American Periodical Series for 1741-1825 (Ann Arbor, 1979). AAS microform holdings are listed in a card file, with master negatives also entered into RLIN.